Letter to Cllr Galley from ESCC re vacant seat - Bus Service update - copied to Parish Council
Dear Councillor Galley
Thank you for your email of 6 September addressed to Ian Crudge. I have now had the opportunity to look into the matter.
It might be helpful if I first set the scene regarding the local authority’s obligations in relation to free transport. We provide free transport between home and school for children over the age of 8 who live more than three miles (4828 metres) from their designated school. The designated school is the school suitable to a child’s needs which serves the area of the home address. Chailey School is the designated school for secondary aged pupils who live in Chelwood Gate. As Chailey School lies in excess of 3 miles, we provide free transport under the stated transport policy.
Uckfield College is not the designated school but happens to be closer than Chailey School. Sometimes we are obliged to provide transport to an alternative school but only when it is geographically the closest school to the home. In deciding which school is geographically closest we have to take account of all possible schools and whether, at the point of entry, there was a realistic chance of obtaining a place. This, as you’ll appreciate, will differ from year-to-year and therefore each case is looked at based on its own unique set of circumstances especially as there are several schools over the county boundary in West Sussex to take into account. We would be happy to advise parents on an individual basis regarding their child’s eligibility.
Turning to the Vacant Seat Scheme, this is a discretionary scheme where spare seats are offered up for a charge but not before all those with a statutory entitlement have been placed. The authority is not in a position to commission larger/additional vehicles at extra expense to accommodate children who do not qualify for transport. Thus no guarantees are ever given by ESCC about transport being available for children not entitled to free transport.
Colleagues in the Transport Hub have ‘spot checked’ the vehicle to ensure all those travelling are entitled to travel and are following up with Uckfield College to validate home addresses and attendance. This might reveal some vacant seats. We have parental details on record from their request to purchase a seat so can contact them direct should there be any news. However, we don’t want raise expectations too high given the demand for vacant seats on this particular coach in light of the current loadings.
I hope the above information will assist you in replying to your constituents.
Director of Children’s Services
Children’s Services Department
Please see attached for more information on the results of the recent survey - Results File powerpoint and written file